Insomnia: My Latest Technique


I’ve been a poor sleeper since I turned thirty-five, so insomnia wasn’t a new issue for me when the Change of Life stepped in. But for many, insomnia begins with menopause, adding even more stress to life with wonky hormones. No matter when it starts, insomnia is the pits. Truly. Once awake, your mind can spin and spin and spin, often with worries and concerns that seem to take on gargantuan significance at three AM.

“I feel like I can hear your thoughts bouncing around,” Cliff said to me once.

“If I could just chop off my head,” I answered. “I could go back to sleep!”

(I’m not actually sure that would work, as wouldn’t my head still be awake?)

A month ago, I read yet another article on insomnia. This one describes a breathing pattern to put your back to sleep.

I’ve never been into breathing beyond its usefulness in staying alive. The concept of deep breaths and patterned breaths has always felt like a lot of work. But anything to cure my insomnia. I gave it a whirl.

Here’s what you do:  You breathe in through your nose for four seconds. Hold the breath for seven seconds. Then you release it through your mouth for eight seconds. Read about it here. (Sorry about the annoying ads, but it’s a good article.) And here.

For the first week, the breathing technique worked like a miracle. After that week, it didn’t work every night. But even two months later, I do believe it’s helping me go back to sleep at least fifty percent of the time. I don’t always do the seven seconds of outward breath through my mouth. I don’t want Cliff to think he’s sleeping in a wind tunnel. But another article I found suggests it’s the inward breath through the nose that’s most important.

Dr. Weil, a huge advocate of holistic breathing, says this about the technique: “Breathing strongly influences physiology and thought processes, including moods. By simply focusing your attention on your breathing and without doing anything to change it, you can move in the direction of relaxation.”

So fellow insomniacs, give it a try! Let us know if it helps. It sure seems easier than chopping off your own head.

The statue above is St. Denys, ca. 1490, probably from Northwest France. The statue now totes his head in the Bode Musem in Berlin.

He’s one of the Cephalophoric saints, which means a saint carrying his or her own head. My scholar friend Ken Ostrand writes, “Apparently one issue is: Where to put the saintly halo?  On the head the saint is holding or above his neck?”

Maybe the artists pondered that problem in the middle of the night! That’s when my problems seem to rear their heads the highest. Read more about cephalophoric saints in this article. They are usually figures of saints who were beheaded.

12 thoughts on “Insomnia: My Latest Technique”

  1. Good info and much needed for many people! I usually have no problem with sleeping, and yes I am grateful. Every so often I wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep. So you know what I do? I pray for others. I came up with this idea because many times I can’t stay awake long enough to get through my prayer list. So I figured if it put me to sleep at 11pm why not try it at 3pm?? And it works. Might sound sacrilegious:)


  2. I’ll give it a try, in through the nose for 4 hold for 7out through the mouth for 8. AS long as I don’t end up like a cephalophoric saint, I am game!


  3. Barbara my yoga instructor taught us this same breathing technique and lots of the ladies in my class swear by it.(I am one of the fortunate ones who sleeps when my head hits the pillow).
    Interesting statue.


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